CAIRO – Benin qualified for the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) for the first time in their history after shocking favourites Morocco 4-1 on post-match penalties, at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Friday evening.
The teams were locked at 1-1 after regulation time and extra-time could not separate the sides.
Les Écureuils, as Benin are known, scored their penalties through Olivier Verdon, David Djilga, Anane Tidjani and Seibeou Mama. The Atlas Lions on their end scored only one of their penalties through Oussama Idrissi.
The team’s most dependable players in attack Sofiane Boufal and Youssef En-Nessyri both missed as Morocco paid the penalty for their complacency.
Benin only qualified to the round of 16 after a final day 0-0 draw with defending champions Cameroon squeezed them through as one of the best four third-placed teams.
Morocco coach Herve Renard’s hope of making history by becoming the first coach to win the Afcon title with three different teams came up in smoke as his Moroccan outfit came up short.
The North Africans should have themselves to blame after they won a penalty in the final minute of regulation time, but star winger Hakim Ziyech saw his kick come off the outside of the post. A rash challenge from skipper Stephane Sessegnon on En-Nessyri saw the referee point straight to the spot.
Benin had broken the deadlock early in the second half, shocking the former champions when Moise Adilehou found the target. Benin had pressed Morocco in their own half for most of the first half and in the second 45, when they had a chance to punish, they did it with ease.
However, Morocco turned the pressure on Benin to get a goal and they were rewarded in the 76th minute, when Jordan Adeoti was dispossessed at the edge of the box by skipper M’bark Boussoufa.
The skipper played a one-time pass to En-Nessyri who made no mistake from the edge of the box to shoot low past keeper Owolabi Kassifa. With the game level, Morocco pressured Benin and forced them to play on the back foot.
They would have avoided all the pressure of extra-time and penalties had Ziyech converted.
Morocco were handed more advantage with 13 minutes left to play in extra-time when Benin’s Abdou Adenon was sent off for a second bookable offence, but they couldn’t break a strong defensive line set up by Les Écureuils.
African News Agency (ANA)